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Last Updated: Friday, 1 July, 2005, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Kissinger regrets India comments
Henry Kissinger
Mr Kissinger now says Indira Gandhi was a 'great leader'
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has expressed regret over anti-India comments he made to former US President Richard Nixon.

"The Indians are bastards," Mr Kissinger said shortly before the India-Pakistan war of 1971, it was revealed this week.

Mr Kissinger also called former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi a "bitch" during the conversation.

At the time, the US saw India as too close to the Soviet Union.

The conversation was revealed in documents the US State Department declassified this month on US foreign policy of the time.

According to the documents, President Nixon called Indira Gandhi an "old witch" in a conversation with Mr Kissinger.

'High regard'

Mr Kissinger, 82, has now told a the private Indian television channel NDTV that his comments did not reflect American policy during the 1970s.

"I regret that these words were used. I have extremely high regard for Mrs Gandhi as a statesman," he said.

Kissinger: They are the most aggressive goddamn people around there
Nixon: The Indians?
Kissinger: Yeah
Nixon: Sure

"The fact that we were at cross purposes at that time was inherent in the situation but she was a great leader who did great things for her country."

One key conversation transcript comes from the meeting between President Nixon and Mr Kissinger in the White House on 5 November 1971, shortly after a meeting with the visiting Indira Gandhi.

"We really slobbered over the old witch," says President Nixon.

Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon
Kissinger and Nixon opposed an independent Bangladesh

"The Indians are bastards anyway," says Mr Kissinger. "They are starting a war there."

He adds: "While she was a bitch, we got what we wanted too. She will not be able to go home and say that the United States didn't give her a warm reception and therefore in despair she's got to go to war.

Mr Kissinger told NDTV that this was not a "formal conversation".

"This was somebody letting off steam at the end of a meeting in which both President Nixon and I were emphasising that we had gone out of our way to treat Mrs Gandhi very cordially," he said.

"There was disappointment at the results of the meeting. The language was Nixon language."

Relations between India and US have strengthened since Mr Kissinger's days.

Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi sought stronger links with the Soviet Union
"The US recognises that India is a global power, that is a strategic partner of the US on the big issues," Mr Kissinger said.

However, President Nixon and Mr Kissinger's remarks have angered India's ruling Congress party.

"It is shocking that the head of state of a country and his principal adviser chose to use such intemperate language against a popularly elected prime minister of another country," party spokesman Anand Sharma said.

"These words have no relevance today... we hope the present US leader also rejects these remarks which were definitely in very poor taste."

Nixon's dislike of 'witch' Indira
29 Jun 05 |  South Asia
'Shocking' Nixon pictures removed
05 Oct 04 |  Entertainment
Kissinger's secret Nixon blast
22 Jul 04 |  Americas
Nixon mulled Vietnam exit in 1972
08 Aug 04 |  Americas
Timeline: Bangladesh
27 May 05 |  Country profiles

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